Tales from a Canadian Attorney: Flat Fees

Carli Van Maurik

If you’re not a fan of the billable hour, you’re not alone! But there is an alternative, and that’s in the form of flat fees. Carli van Maurik explains how lawyers might consider using a fee range rather than the billable hour. Welcome back, Carli! 

Clients don’t like the billable hour. In fact they hate it. They hate it because they feel that solicitors create make-work projects and are inefficient. As well, a billable hour does not allow them to budget and determine whether the cost is worth the service to them.

From a practical point of view, it’s a buyers’ market so we should care about what our clients think.

Is there an alternative to the billable hour? There sure is, a flat fee (or fee range)!

Yes, that requires change …

Yes, that requires a bit of risk taking …

It also forces us to:

  • think critically about the value we deliver,
  •  think through the steps necessary to complete a matter and engage in an analysis of what is likely to happen; and
  •  become organized and systematic.

I am clear and upfront with my clients about cost and fees in the very first meeting. Clients hate talking about money so I consider it my duty to bring it up to them right at the outset. There has historically been a lack of transparency in pricing and clients are nervous about costs. By being direct with clients you relieve them of this anxiety.

I couple this with a complimentary initial consultation. Why? Because it allows clients to get a lay of the land and understand what (costs) will be involved in their matter. They then get to decide whether the legal cost is worth it to them.

As an aside, during the consultation I also get to see if I want to work with them (not every client is a desirable client).

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Thanks, Carli!

More about Carli:

Carli van Maurik is a senior business solutions lawyer and joined Whiteboard Law in 2014. Carli was formerly with a highly regarded business law firm located in Victoria, B.C., where she led their Corporate and Commercial Department.

An entrepreneur herself, she recently co-founded an innovative online start-up company.

Ms. Van Maurik is actively involved in the Victoria Advanced Technology Council (VIATeC) and is a booster with VIATeC’s “Accelerate Tectoria” accelerator program where she mentors start-up businesses and appears as a frequent guest speaker.

Carli has extensive experience in a wide range of business law matters including assisting her clients with (technology) start-up formation, debt and equity financing, sophisticated corporate/capital structuring, corporate governance, maintenance and compliance, as well as shareholders agreements. In addition, she regularly assists clients with complex corporatere-organizations and helps by avoiding and solving stakeholder disputes. Other areas of practice include negotiating and preparing share/asset purchase, franchise and licensing agreements. She has extensive experience in structuring corporate entities, societies and not-for-profits, cost-sharing arrangements, joint ventures and partnerships.

Carli has volunteered her time with the Access ProBono Society of British Columbia providing legal advice to low income individuals.  She was sought out to make a guest appearance on a Victoria television show profiling the local business community.  Carli is also an Advisor with ICE which is a resource for helping budding entrepreneurs research and potentially launch a new venture. It is also a resource for very early ventures that have yet to raise outside money (beyond early “friends and family”) and which are now reaching a stage where they need to polish a business plan and become “Investor-Ready”. ICE is an initiative of the Gustavson School of Business on behalf of the University of Victoria.

Carli is a graduate of St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia and attended law school atDalhouse University where she received the Award of Academic Excellence and was on the Dean’s List for 2002 – 2003.  Carli was called to both the British Columbia Bar and the Nova Scotia Bar in 2007.

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